Brian Tannebaum

Posts by Brian Tannebaum

Yes.

Now you can go back to work, or your Xbox, or continue reading. Whatever makes your precious self happy.

After I was solo for five years, I started Tannebaum Weiss — new office space, business cards, stationery, phone number, all the bells and whistles. I know in today’s world you may wonder, “Why didn’t you just get a new laptop?,” but back then, it was okay for lawyers to operate like professionals and interact with other human beings in office buildings.

I also hired a public relations firm. I wanted to get the word out about our practice and thought this was the best way. We didn’t have Facebook or Twitter, and the media was still interested in reporting about things other than, well, what was on Facebook and Twitter. It was important to be at events where potential relationships could be started, as we couldn’t just hire some kid to tweet all day about how awesome we are. We wanted to establish the firm in the community and couldn’t do it with a Facebook Fan Page.

We retained the PR firm for one year. It was expensive. We couldn’t really afford it, but I thought it was important and that it would somehow pay for itself. Of course, this was also back in the day when investing in your law firm meant more than just finding an outlet at the local Starbucks and hoping it all worked out without having to invest a dime. It was a learning experience — from the initial interviews (we interviewed two firms) to the working relationship….

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He came to the office wanting only one thing: to clear his name by fighting the accusations. They were accusations that were currently civil (and very public) in nature, but could become criminal and administrative. He got my name, and he brought his file and his checkbook. He had his assignment for me, and just wanted a pen.

There was nothing I needed to do. No selling of my qualifications, no answering questions about what I think about other lawyers, no internet marketer to thank. He checked me out, was told the possible amount of fees, and made his decision before walking in the door.

I read his documents, asked a few questions, noted a few things I saw, and then told him he was going to get killed. I explained not only the legal aspects of his case, but the consequences of fighting and losing. I also explained his other options based on things he wanted to do, and why I thought there was another way to go that would put him in a better position to avoid other issues that would surely arise.

He immediately got up and walked out wanted to continue talking.

You may be thinking this is pretty obvious. This is what lawyers do, they give advice to potential clients on the risks and possibilities and let the client make the decision.

But we know that’s not true….

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I know you were expecting a round-up of last week’s Legal Marketing Association rainbow and unicorn festival conference where this year’s theme was… well, the same as last year and the year before: “Why won’t lawyers listen to our buzz words?” Instead of a round-up of the group hug, which will only make you dumber, here’s all you need to know based on the #LMA13 Twitter feed:

Formalizing client process via increased measurement and increased services provided is making difference in accounting client satisfaction.

That comment was made after Popehat read the Twitter feed and instead of voluntarily running into the path of a fire truck, asked this question:

How will your firm embrace synergizing social leverage rebranding communication channels to market integration strategies of scale?

Of course if you didn’t go, you also missed the 4,759 announcements of:

We have another winner for our iPad giveaway! Stop by booth 300.

And that was it, buzz words and iPads. Get ready for an onslaught of marketeer emails and cold calls with game-changing new normal worthless ideas that will be criticized at next year’s conference, after you’ve paid for the marketeer to implement them in your practice.

So while all the marketeers are busy convincing you with buzz words that they have ways to get you more clients, clients, clients, I, of course, want to talk about getting rid of clients.

Can I never just jump on board and play along?

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This is my favorite time of year. The ABA TechShow and the Legal Marketing Association Conference will headline a slew of multi-day conferences for very successful lawyers, some with clients, to mix with very successful, genius, game-changing marketeers and tech hacks, some who don’t work from their dining room tables or live at home, while hanging out in vendor halls looking for free coffee and a sponsored meal in between listening to the next law futurist spew stats on how clients they don’t represent want to receive legal services or hire lawyers.

If you’re on Twitter (which I am, even though I say in my bio here that no client has ever asked me if I’m on Twitter — because I enjoy the genius commenters saying, “But you’re ON Twitter dude?”), you can follow the dribble enlightening thoughts by searching #ABATECHSHOW. (That’s a hashtag. See, I’m one with the future.) In the coming weeks, you’ll find #LMA13, or just look for a bunch of people predicting the future of law and crying about “why lawyers don’t listen” to them.

When you look through the tweets, disregarding the vendors begging you to “come visit” their booth for a free Tootsie Roll and a chance to win the most important tool for any lawyer, the iPad, and the requests from very successful professionals to “share a cab” from the airport, you’ll come to something like this….

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One of the good moments in the practice is when you see the result of a networking event, online introduction, “hit” on that marketing blog that you’ve never written a post on, or God forbid, a happy former client.

The result being a referral.

A real referral. A real case, a paying client who wants to meet with you “as soon as possible.” This person calls and says they got your name from someone you know. They read your canned post on the latest fatal accident, they think your automated Twitter feed with links to your website is awesome, or they heard you did a great job for their good friend and now they need you (but I hear that never happens anymore and that lawyers that rely on doing a good job and getting referrals as a result of that are part of the past and are going to go out of business very, very, very soon).

So this is all very nice. It shows that something you are doing is working. It may for a while take your mind off suing your law school for lying about getting you a job.

But then there’s the call that goes something like this….

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There’s lots of misery in our profession. Much of it occurs because lawyers didn’t realize that the practice is not like some television show glamorizing our daily lives. We are also a miserable bunch because many of us do the same thing every day, we hate what we do every day, and we deem it useless. Even if you’re one of those rare lawyers who loves what they do, you stand the risk of being around the miserable ones.

I love what I do. I don’t love it every day, and like everyone else on the planet, occasionally think about doing something else. There are days when, like everyone else, I have to deliver bad news to a client, or wonder if every conversation I am having is a conspiracy to cause me to jump out a window.

So because I love what I do and love you all so very much, I thought I’d give you some thoughts about how to actually enjoy lawyering….

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You want to know what the future of law entails for you? Probably not much. You do the same crap everyone else does. You’re some run-of-the-mill commercial litigator, or you write the same wills as every other estate planning lawyer, or you’re an “aggressive” and “caring” and “passionate” criminal-defense lawyer that will “fight for your rights.”

It’s all garbage. You don’t matter. You compete on price and spend your day wondering what works better — pay-per-click, or your Facebook Fan Page. You’ll pay the bills and get a nice case every so often, but you’re just another lawyer wondering why the world hasn’t lined up to hire you.

The future of law is specialization. I’m not just talking about “niche” practices, I’m talking about specialization within your practice. I’m talking about being a resource in your practice area, or knowing more about a specific issue than the others. And yes, I have examples, calm down, I’ll lay this out for you in simple, easy terms that you can understand. Maybe you can even put some of this to work in the middle of contemplating your miserable life as a lawyer….

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You and your partner are going separate ways. It sounded like a good idea — you left the same firm together, or quit the prosecutor’s office at the same time. You got a little corner of another firm’s space, a wood sign with silver letters, a nice desk, and those two chairs in front of it that would make the clients believe they were in the right place. You plugged in a new phone system and off you went.

But your partner isn’t bringing in business, or maybe it’s you. Maybe a small law firm isn’t for you and you’re headed back to Biglaw or in-house. Maybe your partner can’t seem to get in before 10 or your contingency cases are way too contingent.

Lawyers split up; they have issues like any other type of relationship. They fight about money, space, others (read: clients) in their lives, and who knows, maybe they even sleep together. Sometimes the split occurs over time, and sometimes it happens suddenly.

Let’s keep some things in mind….

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Last year, I wrote about the thing that gets me yelled at almost as much as when I rail on SEO and tech hacks — when I dare to mention that practicing lawyers looking to build their practice should have an office.

Your practice may be “built.” You may be getting more calls than you can handle. You may be a low-volume lawyer that only needs/wants a couple cases a month, and your referral sources take care of that for you.

But I’m talking about the rest of the profession. The debt-laden, the hungry, the ones still trying to get to that place where they have the types of clients and cases they want.

This is not a post about the merits of having an office, it’s about when it’s time to move — to something nicer, closer to the business center of town, or closer to the courthouse you are in three days a week. If you’ve already decided that having an office is the worst thing you could ever imagine because “no one has an office anymore,” stop reading here and go yell at that law dean, or Wallerstein, or my boyfriend Elie….

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You loved that story, huh? Couldn’t get enough of Ms. “F**k You” to the judge. Everyone ran right to YouTube, 7,000,000 times. Non-practicing “legal experts” claimed they knew exactly why this was the wrong/right thing for the judge to do, while the coddlers and tough-love morality commentators claimed this was an example of a bigger problem.

So yeah, young people just in to the jail from a drug-induced night out don’t always have the best manners. Sometimes they say “f**k you” to people who are in a position to help them.

So do lawyers and law students.

Lawyers, you are the worst at valuing your colleagues time. You have a legal issue or question, you feel entitled to advice, case law, representation. You feel entitled to the extent that your appreciation is often nonexistent. You often want referrals to lawyers that will help you or your client for free because, well, now that you’ve been paid, there’s no more money.

Relax, I actually do have some examples….

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